CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — The spotted lanternfly is an invasive pest; who’s presence in Franklin County was confirmed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture early in 2021, adding to the growing list of 34 counties infested in the state of Pennsylvania. This species was first detected in Berks County in 2014; and is native to Southeast Asia.
The spotted lanternfly is known to feed on the sap of grapevines, hardwoods, and ornamentals strikes a double blow — not only does it stress host plants, but it also can render outdoor areas unusable by leaving behind a sugary excrement called honeydew.
Learning to identify the pest is critical for early detection and management.
This insect completes its lifecycle within one year. Spotted lanternflies go through five stages of growth after hatching from eggs. The first four stages are called nymphs, which are incapable of flight. The young nymphs are black with bright white spots and are roughly the size of a pencil eraser. The next stages of growth are similar, but the nymphs become larger. The fourth stage of spotted lanternflies, prior to adulthood, is vibrantly red with distinct patches of black and equally distinct bright white spots. The adult spotted lanternfly is about 1″ long. Adults have grey wings with black spots. When the spotted lanternfly opens its wings, it reveals a bright red underwing. Spotted lanternflies live through the winter only as eggs. Adults lay eggs in masses in the late fall on trees, under bark, posts, lawn furniture, cars, trailers, outdoor grills, and on many other surfaces.
What threat does this pest pose?
Spotted lanternflies do not bite or sting humans or pets. Spotted lanternflies feed on the sap of a plant and when there are high populations of them, they can cause significant damage. They feed on over 70+ plants, including important forestry and agricultural crops. The most damage to-date has been observed in vineyards, ornamental nurseries, and people’s backyards. To-date, we have only seen spotted lanternfly kill sapling trees, sumac, grapevines, and tree-of-heaven. Healthy and established ornamental trees have not been recorded to have died from spotted lanternfly, though canopy dieback and plant health decline has been observed, particularly on some of spotted lanternflies favorite hosts including black walnut and maple. Additionally, sooty mold has been recorded to kill groundcover plants, particularly immediately below large populations of spotted lanternfly in trees. This is a continued area of research.
What can be done?
Destroy egg masses — fall, winter and spring:
Check for egg masses, gray-colored, flat clusters – on trees, cement blocks, rocks and any other hard surface. If egg masses are found, scrape them off using a plastic card or putty knife, and then place the masses into a bag or container with rubbing alcohol. The egg masses also can be smashed or burned.
Circle traps — spring and summer:
Trapping is a mechanical control method that does not use insecticides. While traps can capture a significant number of spotted lanternflies on individual trees, they do not prevent lanternflies from moving around in a landscape and returning.
When the nymphs first hatch, they will walk up the trunks of trees to feed on the softer, new growth of the plant. People can take advantage of this behavior by installing a funnel-style trap, called a “circle trap,” which wraps around the trunks of trees. Spotted lanternflies are guided into a container at the top of the funnel as they move upward.
Circle traps can be purchased commercially or can be a do-it-yourself project. A detailed guide on how to build a trap can be found on the Penn State Extension website at ” <How to Build a New Style Spotted Lanternfly Circle Trap.
Sticky bands are another method that has been used. Sticky bands have a major drawback: the sticky material can capture other insects and animals, including birds, small mammals, pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and more. To reduce the possibility of bycatch, a wildlife barrier of vinyl window screening or other protective material must be installed. Sticky bands deployed without a wildlife barrier are not recommended.
Removal of tree-of-heaven — spring and summer:
While the spotted lanternfly will feast on a variety of plant species, it has a fondness for Ailanthus, or tree-of-heaven, an invasive plant that is common in fencerows and unmanaged woods, along the sides of roads, and in residential areas. For this reason, there is a current push from spotted lanternfly officials to remove this tree.
The best way to do this is to apply an herbicide to the tree using the hack-and-squirt method, a critical step to prevent regrowth, and then cutting it down after it is dead from July to September. More information on how to destroy this aggressive tree can be found at ” Tree-of-Heaven.
Use of insecticides — spring, summer and fall:
When dealing with large populations of the insect, citizens may have little recourse other than using chemical control. When applied properly, insecticides can be an effective and safe way to reduce lanternfly populations.
Penn State Extension is researching which insecticides are best for controlling the pest; preliminary results show that those with the active ingredients dinotefuran, carbaryl, bifenthrin and natural pyrethrins are among the most effective.
However, there are safety, environmental and sometimes regulatory concerns that accompany the use of insecticides, so homeowners should do research, weigh the pros and cons, and seek professional advice if needed. Always read the product label and apply pesticide products in accordance with the label as required by federal law.
Our county is part of the quarantine zone, what does that mean?
The quarantine for spotted lanternflies is an important legal designation. The citizens of municipalities under a quarantine order can follow simple directions to ensure that each citizen complies with the law. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture quarantine order directs citizens and municipal authorities to follow guidelines to prevent the movement of spotted lanternflies at any stage of development. These guidelines direct citizens to inspect all wood and vegetation that might leave the quarantined municipality. In addition, these guidelines direct citizens to inspect vehicles, trailers, and other mobile equipment prior to moving such equipment out of the quarantine.
More information about the spotted lanternfly’s life cycle and management techniques is available at the Penn State Extension Spotted Lanternfly website. Information on quarantine regulations and reporting sightings is available at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Spotted Lanternfly webpage.
Please direct any questions on spotted lanternfly identification and management to your local Extension office; Penn State Extension Franklin County 717-263-9226.
— Brittany Clark, Penn State Extension